by Daphne Backman & Anne Calder | Photos by Robin Ritoss

SHORT DANCE

France’s Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron set a new World record of 83.73 and took a solid lead after the short dance in an event that saw many teams set new personal bests and give their best performances of the season. All teams in the top five received level 4s on at least four of their elements.

Skating to a Latin remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and “Thinking Out Loud,” Papadakis & Cizeron were fast and commanding in their performance. They carry a 3.31-point lead over their training mates, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue of the United States. They received level 4 on all elements, except their partial step sequence, which received level 3. Milan brings back fond memories for the French as it hosted the 2013 World Junior Championships, where they won the silver medal.

“We had a really good feeling on the ice today,” Cizeron said. “It felt really special to be back in Milan after five years, when we were here for Junior Worlds, and the crowd was amazing. In our final competition in the end of this long and demanding season, we really needed the support of the people.”

The team heads into the free dance poised to win their third World title. Their free dance set to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” holds a world record score from the 2018 Olympic Games.

“With this free dance, we already achieved what we wanted to this season,” Papadakis said. “Beethoven is a great composer, and we really connect a lot with his music, especially this piece, so tomorrow will be another opportunity to perform in front of a competitive audience, and I hope we can deliver a performance we are proud of.”

Like their training mates, Hubbell & Donohue also set a new personal best in the short dance, which was nearly 3 points higher than the one they posted at the Olympics. Skating to “Le Serpent” by Guem et Zaka, “Cuando Calienta El Sol” by Taiya Ferro, and “Sambando” by Los Ritmos Calientas, the Americans were the only team to receive level 4s on all of their elements. Their Latin performance was subtle, yet confident and showcased their on-ice chemistry and unison.

“We put out an incredible performance and we are very proud to achieve a clean protocol with all level 4s,” Hubbell said. “We really feel we gave our best performance today and the crowd was wonderful, so we are very happy.”

“We have been really pushing to get all (level) 4s and the hard work has really paid off, especially this last week of training,” Donohue added.

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje finished in third place with their performance to “Tango” by Dianne Reeves and “Do You Only Wanna Dance” performed by the Julio Daviel Big Band.

“We’re so happy with our performance today,” Weaver said. “We seem to have bookended our season with this short program. It started out great, then a bit of a dip and, now, what a way to finish the season—with a Personal Best.”

“The crowd [is] exhilarating, just cheering and roaring, and we were able to take that energy and give our short program the Latin heat it needed,” Poje added.

Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte could not have asked for a better performance on home ice and are in position for a medal heading into the free dance. Skating to “Kaboom” by Ursula 1000, “Skip to the Bip” by Club des Belugas, and “1008 Samba,” the program highlighted the team’s expression, precision, and connection to each other and the audience. Their short dance score of 77.46 is less than a point behind Weaver & Poje.

“It was a great performance,” Lanotte said. “We tried to give everything to the crowd. That’s why we are here because we want to skate for people, for Italy, for our fans, and we really love it and love to bring our performance to the new level.”

Having Worlds in their hometown also gave an opportunity for many of the team’s family members and fans to see the team skate in person on the biggest stage.

“It’s been crazy the past two weeks when everybody was asking us about the event,” Cappellini said. “They wanted to come to see us. Everybody was asking us about tickets, times, organization, but it’s wonderful that so many people support us and also those who had never had a chance to see figure skating [live], to clap and scream not on the TV, but in the arena.”

In fifth after the short dance are Team USA’s Madison Chock & Evan Bates. Earning 75.66 points, the team’s program to a medley of music by Marc Anthony was fun and showcased their unison and expression.

“It felt great,” Chock said. “We had a lot of fun out there and this was definitely our best performance all year. So it’s really nice to cap it off with a season’s best.

“We really wanted to finish the season on a better note and today’s short dance was definitely the best of the season, so we’re really happy we decided to come here,” Bates added.

Canada’s Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier are in sixth place after breaking 70 points internationally for the first time this season.

“We made a few changes after the [Olympic] Games, as everyone does, and flipped some elements, and I think it gave us more impact and I love it,” Gilles said.

The event concludes with the free dance on Saturday.

FREE DANCE

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron captured their third World Ice Dance title and broke record scores set just last month at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won the silver – their first ever World medal. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje of Canada eked out the bronze by .27 points over the Italians.

Papadakis & Cizeron gave a mezmerizing interpretation of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and received closed to perfect technical and component scores. The base values were all level 4, while the judges rewarded them with mostly all +3 GOE’s +10 presentation scores, including a perfect set for their performance.

“We’re really happy about what we did today, of course because of the scores, but before that because of the feeling we had on the ice,” Cizeron said.  “We had so much fun and felt like we had so much control of what we were doing. It was one of the first times we achieved such a level of quality in our program, and the connection was incredible between the two of us and with the public. We just wanted it to feel like a really special moment and it did. It’s a memory we’re going to cherish.

Hubbell & Donohue reached back to their first season together for a Blues genre they feel is one of their strengths. The sultry dance to “Across the Sky” and “Caught Out in the Rain” is a lot more refined and sharper than the raw sexy blues they showed six years ago. The characters are now more complex, like the ones from the television show “Suits” they portray in the free dance.

The reigning USA National Champion’s elements earned all level 4’s, while their segment (116.22) and total (196.64) were personal best scores.

“Zach and I are obviously very pleased,” Hubbell said. “We’ve never been on a World Championship podium before and to be here after this tough season is just a great way to finish. We feel we have done a lot of work tackling our demons and fears and all the ‘what ifs’ that go through our minds. We’ve had a history of making errors and giving up place(s) so today’s performance met our goal of keeping in the moment, keeping the connection, and believing what we did was enough. It turned out it was, so we are pleased and looking forward to the future.”

Weaver & Poje returned to their signature piece, “Je suis malade” after struggling earlier in the season with their first musical selection, “Spartacus”. The emotional performance earned level 4 for six elements and level 3 for the circular step sequence.

Weaver explained their feelings about the dance.

“The program went by so fast and before we knew it, we were climbing the podium. I think this was one of our best skates, and to know we’re still being appreciated for our skating is very gratifying. There are so many instances of emotional performances with this program, but this was the most emotional so far. It was very special.”

The two-time World medalists were fourth in the free dance, but won the bronze. Their segment (114.04) and total (192.35) were personal best scores. Their margin of victory over the Italians was .27. Ironically, in 2014, immediately following the Sochi Olympics, the Canadians lost the World Championships gold medal to the Italians by .03.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte were third to a heartwarming and impassioned performance to “Life is Beautiful”, but fourth overall. The lifts, spin, twizzles, and serpentine lift earned level 4; the diagonal footwork was level 3. The segment (114.62) and total (192.08) were personal best scores. The 2014 World Champions were thrilled to perform in front of their Milan hometown audience.

“This was the most fantastic moment,” Cappellini said. “This is the most emotional, the most passion we have had for years. Being here (in Milan) with our friends and the crowd, everybody rooting for us, it’s been wonderful for us.”

“Whatever the result, today was probably the biggest emotion we have ever had skating,” Lanotte added.  “Today we gave all we had to each other. We never imagined when we were children that we would arrive so high, to get so far. I’m so grateful to Anna who gave me the opportunity to show our skating to everyone and to share the last 12 years.” 

Madison Chock & Evan Bates placed fifth with a 111.62 segment score. The total (187.28) was a season best. The personally emotional dance to John Lennon’s “Imagine” earned level 4 twizzles, lifts and combination spin; the step sequences were level 3.

Bates reflected on the feelings the team has about the program.

“This free dance in particular has been the most sincere program we have ever skated, and that is a great lesson for us. When we show our authentic selves and really skate as a reflection of who we are, then people connect to it more and respond to it better. The best takeaway of this season is just how wonderful this free dance has been for us.”

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier were the second Canadians to change programs by mid-season. They traded in Perry Mason for a more dramatic James Bond theme and earned level 4 for six of the elements. The segment (111.59) and total (186.10) were personal best scores. They finished sixth.

“Earlier in the year we struggled to get the scores we wanted,” Gilles said. “Coming into the World Championships we feel we were at the right peak of our skating. We feel happy with what we did and to do it to the James Bond program is exciting and a lot of fun. We try to reinvent ourselves every year to have something that the crowd recognizes and can get behind.”